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REC Committee calls for stronger transport policy in Climate Plan

Published 10 March 2017 by Jamie Wylie

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee has today published its findings on the Scottish Government’s draft Climate Change Plan (CCP).

After taking evidence from a range of stakeholders in February, the REC Committee has made a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government on improvements that should be made to the Policies and Proposals in the CCP.

Transform was pleased to provide evidence to the REC and Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committees. We are happy to see that a number of our recommendations for improving the CCP – namely demand management, modal shift, active travel and buses – have been taken on board by the REC Committee.

Summary of the REC Committee’s findings on the draft Climate Change Plan

Emission reductions

The Climate Change sets out a target of a 31% reduction in carbon emissions from transport by 2032. Transport is now the largest source of emissions in Scotland, and with the current Policies and Proposals in the CCP, transport’s contribution to Scotland’s total emissions will rise from 28% to 33% by 2032.

Traffic Forecasting

The Committee received a number of responses concerning the Scottish Government’s prediction of a 27% increase in car traffic by 2032. This was challenged by Transform Scotland and other parties, including Professor Tom Rye from Edinburgh Napier University’s Transport Research Institute, who argued the case that a more sensible approach would be to determine the level of traffic you want, and then produce a plan for achieving this target through sustainable modes of transport. The Committee noted Transform’s disapproval that the vast majority of the Policies and Proposals in the CCP appear to have been based on the predicted 27% increase in private car use, and that the CCP subsequently fails to address the need to achieve a modal shift to sustainable transport.

Modal shift

The Committee acknowledged that little progress has been made on achieving a modal shift to active travel and public transport, and that private car use has not fallen in recent decades. This was reflected in much of the evidence which was submitted to the REC Committee, with many respondents arguing that the CCP needed to have a stronger focus on walking, cycling, buses and trains as a means of carbon reduction. Cycling Scotland, in their evidence, noted that 65% of car journeys are less than 5km – offering a huge potential to encourage a modal shift to walking and cycling for journeys of this distance.

Buses

The Committee found that, despite the wish for better use of public transport in the Climate Conversations initiative, there are no proposals or policies to increase bus patronage in the CCP. Transform pointed out the 10% decline in bus use over the past five years, and that more action needs to be done to support buses to reduce carbon emissions. The Committee noted that Government ambition to increase bus patronage is, at present, not being matched by actions with the same intent.

Active Travel

The Committee noted that progress on increasing cycling rates has been poor in recent years. Cycling accounts for around 1% of journeys – as it has since 2003 – and is well short of the Government’s target of 10% of journeys by 2020. Active travel funding decreased by 6% as a proportion of transport spending in the recent Scottish Budget. Some evidence submitted to the Committee called for the Government to commit to 10% of the transport budget to be spent on active travel in order to achieve rates of walking and cycling in line with other Government objectives. The REC Committee also called on the Scottish Government to set out how it will meet the target of 10% of journeys to be made by bike by 2020.

Over-dependence on technological fixes

Many of the responses to the Committee were highly critical of the over-dependence on techno-fixes and Electric Vehicles (EVs) to achieve the carbon emission reductions set out in the CCP. Transform was acknowledged in proposing that the Government needs to address transport hierarchically: firstly, reducing demand for transport; secondly, achieving a modal shift to sustainable transport; and finally, efficiency measures and technology change. A good network of charging points now exists in Scotland; however, this needs to continue to expand in the coming years. The Committee also noted that the Government’s target of 40% of new car sales to be electric by 2032 is far short of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recommendation of a target of 65%. The REC Committee also acknowledged concerns raised by Tom Rye that large financial incentives might be required to achieve a sufficient uptake of EVs in the coming years.

Lack of influence on Policies and Proposals

Concerns were raised by the Committee and many respondents that too many of the Policies and Proposals, such as fuel efficiency and Vehicle Excise Duty, were highly dependent on decisions made at a UK and EU level. This consequently creates a degree of uncertainty and lack of responsibility for the Scottish Government to take action to achieve these targets.

Demand management

The REC Committee acknowledged that proposals for demand management measures, such as Workplace Parking Levies and Low Emission Zones, may benefit from being given greater consideration in the final CCP. The Committee were informed that demand management measures needed to be approached by incentivising sustainable transport alongside making private car use less appealing in order to achieve a sufficient modal shift to active travel and public transport.

Land use planning

The need for greater land use planning, to avoid the need for private car use entirely, was also raised. The Committee acknowledged that this needed greater attention in the final CCP.

Air Passenger Duty

Some respondents also raised the issue of a potential cut to Air Passenger Duty, which will increase carbon emissions and could damage sustainable rail travel. The Committee raised this issue with transport minister Humza Yousaf during his appearance in front of the Committee.

 

Recommendations

The REC Committee make the following recommendations to the Scottish Government for the final version of the Climate Change Plan:

  • The Committee recognises that since 1990 progress in emissions reduction from the transport sector has been largely offset by increases in demand. It therefore recommends that greater consideration is given to policies that will control demand and encourage modal shift away from private cars
  • In relation to Scottish TIMES, the Committee highlighted that more information on the traffic growth figures input into the model is required to better understand the policy and proposal outcomes
  • The Committee notes that the Draft Climate Change Plan focusses on ways in which developments in technology will reduce transport emissions. The Committee recommends that detail is provided on any incentives proposed and the costs associated with encouraging uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles
  • In relation to active travel, the Committee calls on the Scottish Government to set out how it intends to meet its walking and cycling modal shift commitments, in particular 10% of everyday trips by bike by 2020, in the final Climate Change Plan
  • The Committee recommends that policies to incentivise bus patronage are outlined in the Plan. It also recommends further and increased support for the development of walking and cycling infrastructure to allow for integrated active travel and public transport journeys, with a view to encouraging modal shift from private cars
  • The Committee notes that the proposed reduction in air passenger duty could have a negative impact on carbon levels and recommends that the Scottish Government should commit to undertaking and publishing an analysis of this likely increase in carbon emissions from aviation
  • The Committee calls on the Scottish Government to develop the very limited section on land-use and planning to integrate a climate change impact assessment into planning decisions, weighing economic benefit with the overall ambition of reducing carbon emissions.